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coronavirus

Orkney may move to Level Two at end of April, FM confirms

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon laid out a new route map for Scotland’s exit form lockdown on Tuesday afternoon.

Orkney could be set to move into Level Two coronavirus restrictions at the end of April, the First Minister has confirmed, this afternoon, Tuesday.

This clarification by Ms Sturgeon follows the announcement of a new route map for Scotland’s exit from lockdown.

In her main statement to the Scottish Parliament, this afternoon, the First Minister shared hopes that mainland Scotland may be able to move out of Level Four restrictions and into Level Three by the end of April.

Asked by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur for further clarification regarding the plan for Scotland’s island groups, which are currently in Level Three, Ms Sturgeon said that if the relaxation on the Scottish mainland goes ahead, the Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles would hopefully mover down a level further.

Mr McArthur also sought assurances from that island businesses would continue to have access to the same financial support as businesses in mainland Scotland until the end of June.

Following the exchange, he said: “Today’s route-map is only an indication of how restrictions could be relaxed in the coming weeks and relies on continued suppression of the virus and vaccine roll-out. It does, though, offer some much needed hope that things could start returning to normal soon.

“However, the First Minister’s statement ignored the fact that, unlike the rest of the country, Orkney and Shetland are currently in level three. With new cases remaining relatively low, many islanders would expect this to be reflected in the easing of restrictions going forward.

“I welcome Nicola Sturgeon’s confirmation of this in her response to me and will continue to press this with the Scottish Government over the coming weeks.

“Meantime, I’m also pleased the First Minister was able to assure me that businesses in Orkney will have access to financial support in line with the rest of the country until the end of June. Having previously accepted my argument that island businesses have been impacted every bit as much as their counterparts on the Scottish mainland, it is right that the government continues to honour this commitment, regardless of what happens at the end of April.

“The First Minister also indicated that expanding testing capacity has allowed the government to look at how restrictions might be eased over the coming weeks.  On that basis, the refusal to introduce testing at airports and ferry ports becomes even less justifiable. I’ll therefore be raising this during discussions with Ministers on this matter at the end of the week and will be urging them to reconsider their approach.

“Meanwhile, it is important the everyone keeps following the rules both to keep our community safe but also to increase the chances of restrictions being lifted sooner rather than later.”